I am a devoted people watcher. I am one of those sad sacks who can while away many happy hours at an airport, simply observing, with a misty eye, the comings and goings, the separations and the reunions and never get bored. I love giving the assembled characters names and a life which is based purely on how they look, how they dress, their behaviour and their body language.
Stuck at a recent Parents’ Evening for two hours (9 subjects, 5 minutes per teacher, should have been out in an hour max – you do the Math) I was driven by the sheer boredom of constantly queuing for the next slot, not to mention the jostling for position and the fending off of queue jumpers, to imbue some of my fellow parents with new (or maybe just accurate) personae.
I give you now the Every Silver Lining guide to the parents we all love to hate:-
Mr Anxious Older Dad: Mr A-O Dad is a funny one. He takes every little thing inordinately seriously and, as soon as his little girl has a falling out with one of her friends (which she does on a regular basis, being an entirely normal child) phones the school, demanding to talk to the Head, the Chair of Governors and God himself if that’s what it takes to make his baby happy. His baby has already forgotten she ever had a spat with Katie/Charlotte/Jessica and is happily Facebooking them and countless boys from the local comp at all hours of the day and night, unbeknown to Daddy who fondly imagines the hours spent in her room are devoted to academic excellence. He is horrified by her sudden development of boobs and buttocks and this has led him to become convinced that any male figure connected with the school is a closet Paedophile. He can be heard twitchily demanding to see evidence of CRB checks while a harried teacher patiently explains that the school is not legally bound or, in fact, able to give him access to all the CRB clearances they have on file.
Mrs I Know All The Answers: This is one of the stroppiest humans on the face of the planet. Given to demanding meetings with already over-stretched staff at the drop of a hat, she routinely turns up with a flow chart of events, the better to illustrate her total dissatisfaction with every damn thing the school does. She has an opinion on everything and hers is, of course, the only view that matters and her answers are the only right ones. She wears anoraks and saggy Ugg boots in winter and sandals that display a yard or two of horny, unvarnished toenail in summer. She never, ever plucks her eyebrows. Or any other part of her face, although the need is visible.
Mr & Mrs You Have Nothing Better To Do: This couple are frequently returning expats who are back in the country and on a whirlwind tour of every school in the area. They demand to come and see every subject head, meet the boss and tour the school at a moment’s notice and regardless of how many calendared events may already exist for parents like them. Having sucked up all the school’s resources for hours on end, they go silent for weeks before casually letting drop that they are sending the girls to Saint Asbo’s because “the uniform is prettier there.” They are closely related to:-
Mrs I Pay Your Wages: How arrogant can one human being be? None so much as this lovely lady. Her catchphrase has actually been said to certain teachers from time to time and worse, her child occasionally says it too. She wears dark glasses whatever the weather or time of day, and when they are not on her nose, they are perched on top of her head, pushing back the blonde hair to reveal a tranche of black roots. She drives a BMW 4x4 at high speed onto the school premises, scattering staff and students before her. Her personalised number plate, which was a gift from her banker husband, reads B1 TCH but she has no sense of irony. She is married to:-
Mr Wide Boy: This guy circles the school car park a few times in his Maserati before swinging it into a Disabled bay once everyone has clocked his arrival. Walking with an exaggerated swagger, he is constantly attached to his mobile phone and has a tendency to bark meaningless phrases into it such as “Yah, Nico! How do the numbers stack up?” He was christened Darren but has changed his name to Ed as he thinks it’s more macho. He has absolutely no idea what he is doing at Parents’ Evening; in fact, he’s not even totally sure he can remember the names of all his kids because his wife chose such ridiculous monikers. He also feels like a prat having to discuss the progress that Velvet, Sparkle and Sweetie are making in Philosophy & Ethics, given that he thinks Ethics is a county to the east of London. He is slightly worried that Sparkle is showing a penchant for
Rugby and secretly wonders if she might ultimately turn out to be a lezzer in later life.
Mrs Oh No Not My Baby: No matter how heinous the crime, it is never the fault of this mother’s child. Indeed, one such parent told me that she had phoned the school after her child had been given a ticking off to tell them that it couldn’t have been the child’s fault - hers was a child who refused to watch Harry Potter films because the children in them disobeyed their teachers. Yeah, right! She is second cousin to:
Mrs My Child is a Genius: Demands an inquest when her child gets anything less than an A*** in underwater basket weaving. Insists that Vienetta will be a Cambridge Astro Physicist when all the poor child wants is to be a MAW (Model, Actress, Whatever) and put her own makeup videos on YouTube. She lives next door to:-
Mrs Omelette: So called because she frets endlessly about her child’s diet. La Petite Omelette is not allowed to have meat, eggs, cakes, sweets, biscuits or anything that is not strictly vegan and has been handled by more than one uncircumcised person. She may have a special treat of Quinoa Porridge (no added sugar or salt) every other Tuesday week if there’s an ‘r’ in the month. The staff avert their eyes at break time when they see her scoffing Jaffa Cakes and Creme Eggs with gusto. Mrs O is twinned with:
Mrs Munchausen: Insists her child has every allergy and ailment known to man. Produces Piriton, steroid creams and Epipens at the drop of a hat. Demands a map of the school area with all medical facilities and acute hospitals marked on it. Practices emergency runs in her car so she can learn the quickest route to A&E Departments in three counties. Requires her child to text her every time he or she sneezes, then rings the school nurse in a frenzy, accusing the staff of neglect and proffering a diagnosis of Lassa Fever. The child has a permanent ghostly white hue to its skin because of mama constantly plastering him or her with Factor 50 due to an imagined sun allergy.
People go on about how easy teachers have it – all those holidays, they cry! Work that ends at 3.30pm every day! Let me tell you, there isn’t enough money in the world to persuade me onto the chalkface. All those hours of marking and lesson preparation! All those school trips, desperately trying to keep track of Tyrone and Destiny as they run amok in the Science Museum, counting heads with your heart in your mouth as the coach pulls away, doling out the sick bags – and as for the parents - euch, no thanks!